Processed complementary foods: Summary of nutritional characteristics, methods of production and distribution, and costs
The cost of feeding Latin America's children is high, when viewed in the context of public expenditures on food. The need to increase the cost-effectiveness of such expenditures, coupled with the growing interest in partnerships between the public and private sectors and increases in urbanization, female employment, and household food expenditures, suggests a potential role for processed complementary food in the prevention of malnutrition. The nutritional characteristics of the various foods currently used in nutrition and health programmes are variable, depending on the scientific information available when the food was formulated. A growing interest in the role of the private sector in public health interventions is evidenced by the number of programmes in which such a collaboration exists. The cost of production per 100 g of dry product varies from US$0.04 for World Food Programme blended foods to approximately US$0.20 for recently formulated foods with a significantly higher fat content for national programmes in Mexico and Peru. The constraints and challenges for harnessing the potential of processed complementary foods to improve infant and child nutritional status are numerous. However, the multifactorial causation of child malnutrition points to the importance not only of ensuring access to the appropriate mix of foods, but also of promoting optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices and care.